It's easy for modern city kids to forget the existence of farms and the importance of agriculture, in our colony's history. These holidays, why not remind them and have fun in the process?... Visit one, or both, of Western Sydney's most culturally important farm attractions: Elizabeth Farm and Bella Vista Farm.
Classed as a Sydney Living Museum, John and Elizabeth Macarthur's homestead has been a perennial favourite for school excursions and holiday visits, for years. Built in 1793, it is one of the oldest homes in Australia, with a turbulent history, thanks to it's master's dealings in the politics and economy of old Sydney town.
What's great about this attraction for kids?
Elizabeth Farm is the opposite of dull, standoffish history. Set within a re-created 1830s, garden, the historic home is 'access all areas'. It's a museum without barriers, locked doors or untouchable antiques, which makes for an inclusive, historical learning experience for children.
Fancy being a convict for a day? - image c/o- Sydney Living Museums' Elizabeth Farm webpages
Every school holidays offers a special program of events, which usually involves the opportunity for kids to dress up in colonial period costume. They can immerse themselves in the activities of the day; good and bad. Fancy being a convict, anyone?
To plan your visit in advance, check the What's On page for programs, dates and family tour offerings.
And after your tour of the homestead and Mrs Macarthur's beautiful gardens, stay for a spot of tea and cake at the Elizabeth Farm Tearoom. It's open daily in school holidays and Saturday and Sundays during term time.
Elizabeth Farm's volunteers combine history and fun in their tours - image c/o- SLM's Elizabeth Farm webpages
Opening hours: Wed - Sun 10am - 4pm in the regular months. Daily during school holidays (3 - 28 Jan 2018). Closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
General admission: Children under 5 are free; Adult $12; Concession $8 and Family $30.
Like the Macarthur property, this farm held significance in the agricultural development of early Sydney. Though not as famous as Elizabeth Farm, it's 20 hectares can boast the first Merino Sheep farm in Australia and the foundation of the Australian citrus fruit industry. The site is still an intact farm and it includes a farmhouse and out-buildings which date to Joseph Foveaux's original land grant in 1799.
Why should families visit this attraction?
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day enjoying the sprawling parklands, with views of the Sydney basin back to the Blue Mountains. Take a tour of the historical buildings, explore the parklands, or pack a picnic, taking advantage of the BBQ amenities in the beautiful grounds. You may even spot the farm's five grazing sheep, a homage to the property's merino wool heritage.
Bella Vista Farm's Avenue of Bunya Pines at dusk - c/o- BVF's Facebook page
The other cool thing about Bella Vista Farm is that it hosts community events, such as the Park Feast Food Truck event in November, Christmas celebrations, New Year's Eve and Australia Day. There is always something interesting happening. On the 1st Sunday of every month (except January), the farm offers FREE Open Days, with markets, tours, devonshire teas and family-friendly live music from 9am - 2pm.
Family market day at Bella Vista Farm - c/o- BVF Facebook page
Stay tuned also for the next school holiday program, run by the Friends of Bella Vista volunteers, in January. Details to be announced.
Opening hours: Outer grounds and BBQ area open daily from dawn to dusk (FREE entry). Heritage precinct open 1st Sunday of every month and private tours and school groups can be arranged via the Friends of Bella Vista.